Three

I don’t know what direction tonight’s write is going to take me.  Heh heh heh… maybe in the write direction?

Bad, bad, bad.  So sue me.

Quarantine cabin fever got the best of me a few minutes ago, a fog created by a combo of excessive amounts of pizza (courtesy of my son, who might be getting a bit tired of eating my cooking) and the completion of a season three Ozark binge watch.  I decided to climb in my Subaru for a drive, just to clear my head.  Stay at home, work at home has me in the house from the time I crawl out of bed until I clock out remotely.  The commute to my couch is a short one.  With the weather still cold and mostly dreary here lately, I haven’t turned the pedals since last week, so I just need to get out.

In the last two and a half weeks, I have used a quarter tank of gas.

The winter chill is about gone, judging from the cold yet refreshing air that strolled into my garage as the garage door raised.  I backed slowly out, stopped for a moment in the drive to pick out some music on my phone – the atmosphere in the cockpit improves if the tune fits the mood (Huey Lewis’ new stuff was the choice).  My Subaru growled a bit while it pulled slowly away, as if it too was glad to get out from the confines.  Neither me nor my car was in a hurry.  We just wanted to enjoy the temporary freedom.  Huey Lewis crooned a gravelly tune….

Do you remember when, not so long ago, all we had was time?  And the future was the last thing on our minds.  What a time.

My mind wasn’t gravitating towards carefree memories of my youth, however.  Cabin fever wasn’t the only motivation for getting out of the house.  I needed to face a memory, take a short pilgrimage of sorts.  I live about a mile from my former house, the house I lived in with my wife for 22 years, where our children were born and raised.  I needed to see that house today.

Three years ago, I stood in the driveway of that house, tears streaming down my face, my then sister-in-law hugging me while she told me it would be ok, my soon to be ex wife driving off as she fought the emotions of leaving that house for good.  We had closed on the sale of the house and our time of separation began.  That night, I would sleep in the spare bedroom of the condo unit I was about to buy, perched on top of two mattresses and two box springs (I never felt the pea) with a pathway cleared from the tower of bed to the door through all of my things stuffed in that room.

I am not wallowing in pain or pity tonight.  I am not celebrating, either.  No one should celebrate that.  March 31, 2017 was the day my life as I knew it ended.  It changed in an instant.

It is what it is.

The Subaru growled compassionately as it guided me slowly past that house.  The journey wasn’t what I expected.  The journey was a tribute of sorts, a reminder.  I think I need to remember the pain, the excrutiating emotional stress, the exhaustion that was a constant companion the months that preceded that day.  Maybe I just needed to be reminded of how it felt when that weight lifted off my shoulders as I drove away that day.

My friend, John, reminded me today that so much has changed since that day.  There truly is much to be thankful for.  I think I will take that trip past my old house this day every year, a reminder that beauty comes from ashes, strength from not giving up.

I wonder what I will write next year?

Contrast

Contrasts are often what make life more interesting.  I live in northern Illinois, just west of Chicago, a place where weather often provides that very contrast, with one day cold, the next a surprise of warmth.  If you aren’t familiar with the Chicago area, you know that contrasts are not just characteristic of the winter months, it’s a year long experience.  Last weekend was a good example, contrasts in weather an excellent thing.  As a cyclist, it was a marvelous thing.

Saturday morning arrived early for me — early as in 5:30 AM.  Don’t get me wrong, I am capable of sleeping in, mining the bedcovers until 8 AM or so, but the morning promised to be sunny and pleasant.  Visions of rideable trails had graced my dreams all night, prompting me to wake up ready to go.  When I went to bed Friday night, I realized that it was a real possibility that I could ride dirt in the morning, if and only if I woke up early enough to ride the trails before they thawed.  Instead of cocooning under the blankets, I popped out of bed, looked at my phone to check the temperature outside (20 something degrees).  The forecast for the day was sun and warming temperatures, so I donned my winter riding clothes, rushed out the door to put the bike rack on my Crosstrek, mount the bike on the back, and roll out to the trails.  To say I was a tad bit excited to get out for a real dirt ride is an understatement.  I was a kid in a candy store.

FB_IMG_1583803320042There is something magical about the first ride of the year, as well as a cold morning in the woods, the quiet as wonderful as the blue skies surrounding the trees around me.  I arrived to new views.  Over the winter, the park district spent a lot of time clearing the scrub out of the woods, so much that the space had opened up.  Not only that, but a new trail head (or trail AHEAD) sign had been erected at the trail head.  I was the only rider in the parking lot, unbelievably the only one who had anticipated the freeze/thaw effect on the trail.  I knew that in another hour or two, the trails would begin to thaw and become unrideable, so muddy that riding the trails would be dangerous and damaging to the trails.  But when I arrived, they were frozen, pristine, ready for me.

I felt great.  Don’t get ‘great’ mistaken with ‘fast’.  This was not a fast ride, this was a joyful ride, a celebration and welcoming of the new year.  The fast rides are to come.  With the changes to some of the trails, open from the cutting done by the park district, it was like riding a whole new set of trails.  There was exploring to do, discovery, one trail so different that it was difficult to find.

FB_IMG_1583803326841I finished my ride 90 minutes later, happy and satisfied.   I paused to take a picture of my tires and posted the picture on the rider group FB page, a warning that even frozen trails had left my tread caked with wet dirt.  Even at 9 AM, the trails were beginning to thaw.  I warned that the trails would not be rideable the rest of the day.  The temperature was nearing 40 degrees, the sun beginning to warm the earth.

My whole day was stretched out in front of me, my ride accomplished.  There was so much I could do.  I arrived home, picked up trash along the berm in front of my condo, cleaned the house, put together a shopping list, set out my agenda for the day.  By one o’clock, I was done, ready to take a nap, prepare for my evening.

It was glorious.

Sunday was even better.  Talk about contrasts?  The temperature was above 60, sunny and windy.  I went to church, had breakfast with a friend, napped for an hour when I got home, then went out to the garage in my bike shorts.  Yep… another ride was in order.  This time, I knew that I would see soggy trails, so I rode the fat bike and set out for the crushed limestone trails close to my house.  IN SHORTS!!!  I relaxed again, music playing through my phone in the pocket of said shorts.  This was going to be a long ride, at least four hours.  I planned to explore, find new trails, rediscover old trails.  At one point, I decided I didn’t want the music any more, so I stopped, pulled the phone out of my pocket to turn the music off.

That pocket also had my debit card and license in it.  Do I need to say more?  I stopped about two hours into the ride, just as my cell phone was ringing.  It was the police.  Someone had turned in my driver’s license.  Yep.  Note to self — never put my license in the same shorts pocket with my phone.  What could have been an anxious tragedy turned out to be a minor inconvenience.  I had to reroute to get to the police station in order to retrieve my license.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed a beautiful ride through marshes and woods, a strong jaunt that proved my legs still have a lot left from last season.

I feel good, so much so that the time change had no affect on me at all today.  I arrived at work an hour early, even survived a violent thunderstorm on my way to work.  It was a busy day, one of those Mondays where lunch came so fast that I couldn’t believe it.  Tonight’s weather wasn’t so pleasant, once again a contrast, yet not a surprise.  I live here.  I expect the weather to change quickly.

I hope all who read this enjoyed the same type of weekend.  It was a good one!

Work From Home

In case I haven’t announced it, I started a new job last August.  After five years working out of an office that was ten minutes from home, I took a job working for a company that is a 37 mile commute.  The adjustments required were instantaneous, as well as gradual, if that makes sense.  My personal schedule went from casual to necessarily regimented, including getting up much earlier than I was accustomed to each day.  My previous job required me to be in my seat by 8:30 AM or so.. give or take a few minutes.  If I was late or early didn’t matter.  Suddenly, I needed to be in my seat, prepared to go, at precisely 7:30 AM.  My new job is a product support position, a call center of sorts, which means I need to be available and accountable for all of my time, log off a call log when I use the restroom or take a lunch break.  For five years, my work life was very relaxed.

Part of the adjustment has been financial.  I took a $6000 per year cut in pay, by necessity, because my previous job couldn’t pay me any more.  My last month of employment at that job was at half pay.  When I took the new job, my commute cost me quite a bit more, as I take the tollway to work (almost $6 in tolls per day) and the gas costs tripled.  I pay my ex wife close to $900 a month and couldn’t afford to go to court to have that amount changed, so I am paying the same amount.  My lawyer suggested that I talk to my ex wife to see if she would accept less money (yeah.. right.. no way has she agreed to that).  Three days before I started my new job, my VW bit the dust and I had to buy another car, which added more expense.  Federal taxes last year hit me with a wallup, so I had to put nearly $5000 of the additional tax, plus $3000 of property taxes, on my credit card.  Financially, it sucks to be me.

Financially, I know that seasons come and go.  I am old enough to realize that.  Ain’t no thing, even as I worry through the tough season.

When the company I work for introduced a work from home option at the beginning of this year, I jumped at the opportunity.  For a trial period of three months, I get to work from home one day a week.  The understanding is that I have to prove I am able to do it, am able to handle the responsibility.  Temptation can be to goof off.  Some can’t handle the responsibility, need the office to present the discipline needed to work.  Working from home is not for everyone.

Today was my third day working from home.  I pack up my laptop every Wednesday evening as leave the office for home, set it up in my home office when I get home.  I have an old 48″ TV set up on my desk at home, a comfy old executive office chair.  My view is the berm outside the back of my condo.  The way I am set up, I log in, clock in via a remote badge reader, connect via VPN to all of the online tools I use when at work.  I log on to the phone system, take calls as they come in just like I am at my office.  Someone commented today that there is no way to tell I am working from home.  I like it, since the commute is far shorter.. about ten feet rather than 37 miles.. and far less expensive.  This morning, I logged on at 7 AM, went right to work, the day so busy that I barely left my chair (except for lunch) until my shift was over at 4.

Years ago, I didn’t have the discipline to pull this off.  Judging from my production the last three weeks, it looks like working from home has improved my work output.  Success!

Oh… and I do like the change in wardrobe that working from home allows…..

Terrible T Tries Too Hard

Patience is a virtue that must be acquired by practice.

I thought that one up on my own.  Aren’t I special?  Humility is still a virtue I am saving for.

That statement really is not all that wise.  It’s common sense.  True, although there are enough people who emerge from the womb possessing that very virtue.  All the others have to pay for patience in very painful ways.  Me?  Personally, I am one who has had to learn by a series of hard knocks and mistakes.  In my 58 years on this earth, I have had to work at acquiring what patience I have.  Am I completely there?  Ain’t no way.  Am I the same boy I was even a few years ago?  No.  After a raising a male child, losing a job months before my 25 year work anniversary, separation and divorce, and living above a nitpicking shrew, I have had to practice that very patience I have sought to acquire in order to survive.

The nitpicking shrew tried to strike again recently, in the form of three formal complaints, attempts to have me accused of various degrees of noise violations.  Friday 7, a letter arrived in my mailbox, a notification from property management and the condominium board that a hearing would be held February 12 at 8 PM to consider the complaints filed by my downstairs neighbor.

“..against and relative to you creating excessive noise during the hours of 10:00 PM and 7:00 AM on a somewhat regular basis, which are considered ‘quiet hours’ under the Association’s rules and regulations.  This ‘noise’ has been defined as heavy walking, jumping on the floor, dropping objects on the floor, rolling an object on the floor and leaving the bathtub faucet running for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.”

While I read the notice, my heart sunk into my stomach.  I sat in my little galley kitchen, head in my hands, asking myself how in the world this could be happening.  It didn’t take Solomon to recognize how foolish and silly the woman filing the complaints had been.  How could the board even consider the complaints?  Had they even looked at the history of her complaints?  Why were they giving me only 5 days?  I fought with my fears, told myself that this was a new board, a new property manager, mistakenly taking the woman serious.

I would find out a few days later that was true.  In the meantime, I pulled the current version of the condo association’s rules.  Association rules regarding noise are limited to two short regulations —

  1.  Contact the police along with the property manager for excessive or abnormal noise coming from a neighboring unit.
  2.   No excessive noise between the hours of 10 PM and 7 AM.

My anxiety eased a bit, my blood pressure stabilizing as my heart climbed out of stomach.  There is no mention of quiet hours in the rules (there can’t be) and nothing I was accused of could be considered abnormal or excessive noise, nor was there proof of such.

There were showers in the middle of the night.  My son took a few showers during his holiday visit.  He is also 6’4″ tall and around 240 pounds.  There was heavy walking.

I was still wound tight.  I wanted it to be over, wanted to do something to make it all stop right away.  There was nothing I could do at the moment, I knew, except put my thoughts together.  The notice said I could respond by email or mail, so I drafted a quick email and sent it over.    In the email, I reminded the board that association rules did not mention quiet hours, and the rules also were supposed to allow the resident accused of a violation ten days to respond.  The email gave the history of my neighbor’s behavior from the day I moved to my condo unit, plus a few of the details of some of our confrontations.  I said that I wanted to appear at the hearing, requested that I be allowed the ten days given in the rules.

It helps that I have a brother who is an attorney.  I talked with him over the weekend.  That was good and bad.  There was assurance that he had my back, including an offer to appear at the hearing with me.  Attorney’s salivate at the opportunity to attack, which was bad.  Attack was not going to be beneficial.  My brother did give me good suggestions, made sure that I asked for copies of the actual complaints — which took some coaxing to get cooperation from the property manager.  He called me on Monday evening and asked me what I was trying to accomplish.  I assured him that I was not putting up a defense, only making sure I had all the necessary documents in case my neighbor showed up with a lawyer or tried to make a case after the hearing.  He told me that the response I submitted was excellent, plenty good enough to show the board that the complaints were unjust.  I had convinced him.

The hearing was productive.  My neighbor didn’t show, which the board president noted.  When asked before the hearing if she had any evidence to present, she simply said that she had pressed charges with the local police, gave a badge number of the officer and the case number.  She couldn’t produce any documents of proof.  The property manager had followed up with the police, found out that my neighbor had not done what she claimed.  It was a lie.  Her failure to show for the hearing gave me a chance to be as candid as I liked, provided the board the opportunity to drop any air of impartiality.  They listened, sympathized, complimented me for not showing anger.  The hearing ended up being a good thing for me.  I was assured that no further and future complaints would be considered.  A letter will be issued within the month notifying us of the board’s decision.

I could have blown up before that meeting.  I could have been a total ass.  Years of deposits in the account of patience and experience paid off, I guess.

Waiting for that letter.  I may do a little dance when I read it.  After all, I earned that dance.

 

 

 

 

Backs and Bikes

A week ago, I woke up to the morning alarm and tried to roll out of bed.  Instead of rolling, I merely rocked a little bit to rest on my side, sharp pain in the middle of my lower back immobilizing me.  What I did in the middle of the night that caused the pain was a mystery to me, I just knew that moving was going to be a challenge.  Rather than give in, I eased my feet over the side of the bed, let them drop to the floor while I turned around and let my knees hit the floor.  From there I was able to push my body into a semi upright position.  No way was I going to let the pain win, so I old manned it across my bedroom to the bathroom.  Nature was calling, after all.  On top of that, I really wanted to go to work… really, I did.

This happens once or twice a year.  My back rebels against me for a few days, then returns to normal.  I live on ibuprofen for a bit, curse the pain, bent over and shuffling.  It’s my body telling me thanks for the abuse over the years.  The lower back issue started when I was in my thirties, when I used to be a softball fanatic, probably a result of throwing the ball or swinging a bat too hard.  At first, my back would hurt for a few hours after a game, then was fine.  Three years ago, I decided it was time to hang up my glove because my back wasn’t recovering in between games.  I played my last tournament barely able to stand up straight.  Bicycling always makes my back feel better, so I decided that it was time to focus my energies on the bicycle a bit more.  Softball was taking away from my time on the bike.

The back pain was stronger this time, lasted longer.  It probably didn’t help things that I helped my friend, Jim, move a bunch of furniture up and down stairs last Friday night.  He’s a good friend.  I couldn’t say no.  So, I borrowed a heating pad, downed Doan’s pills, gave in to a coworker’s offer to try Biofreeze (that stuff is really good).  Last night, Lisa brought over her tens massager for me to use.  That did the trick.  I feel almost normal right now.

OK, my BACK feels almost normal.

The tens is a little device that looks like an iPod, with two electrode pads that stick to the body.  It sends electric shocks that contract and relax the muscle, acting like a very intense massage.  The idea is to set the strength as high as one can stand.  Every once in a while, it gives a mild shock, but it’s worth the little bit of pain that causes.

Monday morning, my boss told me that I could go home if I wanted to.  Instead, I found a way to tolerate the discomfort.  I am glad I pushed through.  It ended up being a good week at work.  Our team started the week with a huge amount of work, worked hard to whittle it down, and now we have a manageable queue.  I am glad I got to be a part of that.

I guess life has taught me a little bit about perseverance.  I hope it has, at least.  Giving up rarely produces anything positive, although I suppose sometimes that needs to happen.  There are times when we need to fight through the pain, see the benefits of seeing something through, realize that pain is usually just a season, temporary.  Divorce felt like giving up, but in reality it was realizing that the pain it produced in my life would give me a strength I would not have gained otherwise.  The pain was necessary, and I had to face it in order for my life to get better.

Cycling has also taught that to me.  On a long ride, there is almost always a point along the ride where it gets so tough it’s tempting to quit, where the fatigue or pain is almost too much.  There has been a ride or two where I gave in, quit, took a ride to the finish instead of finishing on my own.  It’s not something I am proud of.  I remember a ride where I pulled off the side of the road in a cold, freezing rain, exhausted from over 100 miles of the toughest riding I had every experienced.  I sat in the middle of the road, cold and wet, the rain water rushing around me.  There were only a few miles left to the summit, but the road was so steep that I really didn’t think I could make it to the top.  I quit.  Needless to say, I had to come back the next year for that same ride, determined to finish it.  I had thought about it the entire year, the defeat living in my soul.

I finished the ride the next time.

 

 

 

Start The New Year Off Wrong

My new New Year’s tradition — start the new year off wrong.  I am not much for making resolutions, although I know they are helpful for some.  It is better for me to know what direction I want to be heading, set a goal or two, keep my head on straight in the present.  Thus my fresh philosophy of starting from the bottom, make that one mistake or big sin on January 1, start at the bottom and let the year be a one at a time trip up the stairs.

As a Christian, I am someone who believes that each day could be that way.  I think that is something everyone understands, even if you don’t believe in God the same way that I do.  Putting it into practice, actually living like I believe it, is another story.  For me, each day starts with simple prayer, with an emphasis on simple.  Thank you is an essential ingredient of each of my prayers, sometimes all that I can pray, but I also try to ask for assistance in trusting — the key to my making it through most days.  I need not only to trust God and, yes, to trust myself.  That means being willing to accept that I am going to make mistakes, trust that no mistake is going to destroy me, no mistake unforgiveable.

That can change me in so many ways, change my relationships.  If I can forgive myself, trust myself and my God to leave each trespass behind, then I have to accept that the same goes for anyone else.

Paul understood that.  He wrote about that in his letter to the Christians in Corinth —

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. — II Corinthians 12:9 NIV

I sometimes wonder if that thorn he speaks about, that weakness, involved the standards he set for himself and others.  What he wrote before and after the quoted verse seems to say that.  Paul had made a mistake, needed to ask forgiveness, admit his weakness and move past it.  He was a flawed man, but I think he knew that his weaknesses could make him strong.  But I think he also had little tolerance for weakness in others, and overcoming that was difficult for him.  That had to change and he knew it.  After all, being aware of those weaknesses allowed him to be open to trusting in Christ, to God’s power.

So I start from weakness, knowing that moving on from that makes me strong.  That realization seems more realistic to me, allows me to understand myself a little bit better.  A New Year doesn’t need to be that year where everything gets better, not if I realize that bad things and good things happen all the time, every year.  Really what makes an day, week, month, season, or year good or bad is how I choose it to be.  There are going to be blessings, far more than I will ever notice.  There are going to be challenges, tragedies, mistakes and most I will be aware of.  When I learn to say thanks in everything, trust, then I know I will make it — just like I have up to this point in time.

I wonder where those stairs are taking me?  Ever think about that?  How many stairs do I have left to climb?  Each year that goes by, I take those steps a little slower, rest a little more often, even let others help me up the next one and help someone up their own step.

Start the new year off wrong.  I dare you.  Let it change you.

Christmas Past, Christmas Present

I wrote the title first, intending to mull over some of the thoughts I am having about my son during this Christmas present.  Christmas past has moments that I hope that spirit doesn’t make me visit, even as the past threatens to reappear.  Times are different now, at least it seems so, with some healing and maturing mixed in with a tad bit of learning.  Yet, I am afraid.

My son is living with me again, during his holiday break.  He arrived a week ago, almost unannounced, called me during the afternoon and asked me if I was going to be home in three hours.  I was on my lunch break at work.  I told him that I needed to help my friend, Jim, move some furniture after work, would probably be home around six.  My son was coming home a few days early.  That wasn’t a big deal.  My place was already clean, with clean sheets ready for his bed, the closet in my spare bedroom cleared so that he would have plenty of room for his stuff during his month long break.

I should take a picture of his room right now and post it here….

He is SUCH a twenty year old male.  No staging was required.  I just snapped a few pics and ran for my life.  How in the world did he manage to mess up the blinds?  I really don’t know if any of his stuff has made it into the closet or the empty dresser.  The rest of the house has been up for grabs, with his clutter extending into the living space.  That has been minimal, his awareness from existing with me during Thanksgiving break giving him some much appreciated knowledge of what it’s like to live with his father.  I have had to clean up after him, but he is also making sure he keeps things a little straight.  It probably helps that I don’t harp at him.  He is still piggish, but not the rude boor of a child I knew a few years ago has diminished considerably.  I can take some clutter as long as he is considerate, which he has mostly accomplished.  As it was at Thanksgiving, he has honored quiet hours and lets me sleep, important since I get up at 5 each morning for work.

Yesterday was the second warmest Christmas day on record for Chicagoland, the balmiest since 1982.  Nate opted for sleeping in, skipped a butt crack of dawn ride with me, yet managed to use up every last drop of hot water for his shower while I was out two wheeled sleigh riding.  I had to take a brisk and icy cold shower after my ride.  Let’s just say it was a blue Christmas without you (hot water… doo doo doo doo doo).  Not only did I get a ride in sans layers, but Nate and I played a few sets of tennis outdoors.. in shorts.

Christmas pasts have not always been pleasant, especially since my liberation from the chains of matrimony.  Nate had a major breakdown a few years ago, and it has been a challenge since.  Last year was good.  This year was good, except, well, he reacted poorly to my lady friend being with me Christmas afternoon, slammed the door to his bedroom.. twice.  She left rather than create further conflict and was pretty upset about the disrespect he demonstrated — which is characteristic of Christmases past.  He emerged after she left, acted like nothing happened, denied that he was upset at all when I confronted him about it.

Baby steps.  We survived and proved that we have learned a few things.  I am just hoping my condo survives the next few weeks of exposure.

Priorities and Elvish Evidence

Sunday.  Near noon.  The Bears are playing the Packers in a game that could decide if the Bears are playoff bound or not.  I am a Bears fan, excited to see that recently the team has been playing like they really do want to be a championship team.  My place on the couch was ready, a lazy afternoon of watching football waiting for me.  Adding to my interest was the success of my fantasy football team, a dismal loser at the beginning of this NFL season, with five straight losses out of the box.  Somehow, my team has lost only one week since then, and in the running for the big money right now.  I wanted to monitor all the scores and stats of today’s games.

Too bad my priorities are straight.  The weather outside was not frightful, although the fire was delightful, but the fire was not going to keep me inside.  It was sunny, with temperatures in the mid twenties.  Mountain biking was my priority.. and mountain biking won out over football.  After all, I could get to the trails by 11:30, be home a little after 2, still catch most of the third quarter.

There were no bowel related incidents during today’s ride.

Did you know that Santa’s elves mountain bike?  I discovered evidence of that today.  A few miles in during my ride, I found the decorated Christmas tree that either elves or gnomes put up next to the trail.  In the midst of the winter beauty was a large red ornament hanging over the trail, with a little tree.  I had to pause a while and wonder.

Tundra

‘Tundra’ might be pushing it when describing the state of the dirt here in northern Illinois, but it’s as close to a description as I can muster at this moment.  The top layer of dirt is pleasantly frozen today… and I LIKE that.  What that means to this mountain biker is that what has been mud has turned to solid frozen dirt.  Solid frozen dirt rides very, very well into the sun comes out and thaws that frozen top layer.  When it thaws, it’s a mucky mess that is not really worth riding.  So, when the dirt turns to Illinois tundra, the joys of the winter riding season around here are abundant.  This year has not provided an abundancy of off road riding, the rain too plentiful.  I and others frowned at the skies far more than we rode the past few months.

Nothing proves that more than looking around as I rode this morning.  With the summer vegetation and leaves gone, the woods are wonderfully wide open, creating a new view throughout the woods.  The trail system I ride the most is next to a large river, the trails built amongst berms left when that river was dredged and the debris from a close by mine was dumped next to the river.  There is always water in between the berms, with little swamps and lakes.  During a normal summer, all but the deepest water dries up.  There is usually only one water crossing on the trails, but today there were at least three, the water in between the berms so high that it encroached on the trails.  It was interesting to observe all the water, hidden behind the greenery all summer, and how it has taken over the park.  The water is a nearly luminescent green, beautiful, although I really don’t want to come in contact with it!

52207I stopped for a moment during this morning’s ride to snap a picture of my bike, share it with my friends (Jim and John).  It was 27 degrees when I started my ride and I really wanted to taunt them for being cold weather wimps, choosing indoor warmth and Zwift over the outdoors.  My friend, Dave, rolled up as I was taking the picture, asked me if I was going to sell my new Salsa.  Ain’t no way, unless financial strain makes that necessary (it could, but I will keep this positive).  Our friend, Chuck, pulled up as well.  We chatted about our Subara Crosstreks and Salsa bicycles as we watched two guys descend a jump the plateau.. there in the picture but a whole lot more intimidating than the picture shows.  Dave, Chuck, and I have a common bond with our bicycles and vehicles, as well as being in the over 50 club.  It was nice to catch up with them.

IMG_20191207_121609542It wasn’t really all that cold this morning, even though the temperature was under 30 degrees.  There was little to no wind.  On top of that, I have learned over the years to dress in layers, have collected the necessary components to make me comfortable in the cold.  To me, it was downright balmy!  My first layer is a synthetic mock long sleeved tee, with ‘capri’ style padded bib shorts (‘Capri’ is probably not what they are called, but, hey….).  The shorts have straps that go over my shoulders.  My feet have thermal socks with wool socks over them.  Second layer is fleece lined tights and a fleece lined long sleeve zip up vented jersey.  Over the jersey goes and wind proof vest, then an old fleece.

However, I experienced one of the not so nice aspects of the necessity of dressing in layers.  I was talking with my dad as I pulled up to my parking spot, had to excuse myself because,..er..ummmm…, nature was calling rather strongly.  I am not talking about the woods, although I COULD be.  It sucks getting old.  Nature isn’t so patient with me any more.  Combine that urgency with trying to quickly remove several layers of clothing, and you have a near disaster waiting to happen.

I survived cleanly.  Barely.

And there you have.  Tundra and turds and time well spent.

Seasoning

As I write, the boy is snoring away, the wall in between my living room and the spare bedroom is shaking from the sheer force of the buzzing gale he is emitting.  It is a new experience for me to hear him, this holiday break the first I have lived with him in over two years.  A lot has changed in that brief period of time, including the emergence of the snore.  We both have matured a bit, evidenced by the peaceful coexistence all week, a bit of a surprise for me.

Geez, the kid is really sawing away in there.

What I expected to experience this past week was a lot of lost sleep, caused by a hulk of a boy that I remembered from two years ago, with loud late night X-Box marathons capped by a midnight marathon shower, his music blaring selfishly through a Bluetooth speaker in the bathroom.  Trails of stench and scattered debris would be all over my humbly overly cared for abode, left by a being who really didn’t care about the havoc he administered to the order of my peaceful existence.  What seems like an exaggeration was the reality of mere thirty months ago.  I flinched with anxious thoughts as I anticipated his upcoming visit this past week.

Those anxious thoughts diluted while they swirled amongst the stronger feelings of gratitude.  To me, the notion that my son even wants to stay with me was a miracle.  When his mother and I sold our house, separated to be together no more, there was not a single doubt that he would live with her.  In my mind, she had helped to create the monster, fed his enormous appetite, protected him from my discipline, and the two belonged together.  He would never want to or be able to exist in the same hemisphere with me again.  I am not sure if I have said it, and if I have please forgive me, but they deserved each other and the separation was an immediate relief from unbelievable stress.  That didn’t mean that I did not or do not want a relationship with my son.  One of the biggest let downs for me was that it did not seem that all of the effort I had put into him would ever be returned.  I never thought we would have a decent relationship, that my son would ever value his relationship with me as his father, would ever want to spend time with me again.

I think pretty much every father goes through that.  Thankfully, most do not experience that through divorce.  There are few days I do not wonder if my marriage would not have been different, maybe even survived, had it not been for the conflict created by my relationship with my son and the escalation of that conflict by the choice his mother made in that conflict.  I will never know.

What I do know is that my son and I were both anxious about our first cohabitation since the separation and divorce.  I was providing sanctuary to him, sanctuary from living in the small space provided to him at his aunt’s town home, a freedom of sorts.  He would have to live in my very orderly space, a space that has been mine alone for over two years, but he would have his own space in my home.  I know he preferred that, know that he has been reaching out to me and lifting me up.  I was anxious, but I really hoped that this time it would be different than it was two years ago.

I think we both were surprised.

He came home to my home, tentative, not knowing what I would expect from him.  I gave him a lot of freedom.  I think he liked that.  It was obvious that I am meticulous, not liking my space to be invaded, but he did a good job of adjusting to my expectations.  He wasn’t perfect, but he was respectful, careful, conscious of the world I have created and he did his best to fit his twenty year old male self into that world.  I did my best to accommodate him, not press him into a perfect little mold, let him live his own life while he was with me.  It wasn’t perfect, but I resisted telling him anything, cleaned up after him and noticed that he adapted to my expectations.  I didn’t lose sleep, although I worried more about him getting home safely than I have in the past.  He communicated with me very well, let me know what was going on, so I could sleep soundly.  Our last night, I didn’t even notice when he came home.

What meant the most to me during his visit?  Perhaps it is the realization that he values me, looks at some of my interests as positive things.  It is very obvious that he thinks my mountain biking is a cool thing.  I can tell that the time invested in him over the years was not a waste.  I feel valued.  I needed that.  One thing that cemented that he is thinking of me was Saturday night, when his car needed windshield wipers, and he wanted to borrow a car.  He acknowledged that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t ready to loan out my ‘new’ car to him.  It was a good thing to me, a confirmation that he is starting to get it.  I needed that.

I am tentatively proud.  He is making strides, working on gaining my confidence.  This whole divorce thing is a tough journey and he is working through it.  Like the title of today’s blog, I know that we both are working into a new relationship, a seasoning of sorts.